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Writing Tips

Poet Jenna Butler on why you should never write in a vacuum

Jenna Butler was a reader for the 2014 CBC Poetry Prize. In this writing tip she discusses the importance of being influenced by the writing you like—and the writing you don't.

Read, read, and read some more. Disappear routinely into the books of writers you love. Look at how they craft sentences or stanzas; consider what draws you to their work. 

Read, equally, the work of writers you’re not as drawn to. What doesn't work for you? Form a critical opinion of where you stand in relation to your craft so that you can articulate it, both in conversation with other writers and for yourself, as you decide what does and doesn't inspire your own craft. 

It’s impossible to write anything of substance if you’re not always seeing what’s out there, how it moves you, what it has to say. Everything you write is in dialogue with other writers, and it’s the dialogue that both challenges and nourishes.”

Jenna Butler is the author of Seldom Seen Road, Wells, Aphelion, and the upcoming collection of essays On the Grizzly Trail. She teaches Creative Writing at Red Deer College and lives with three resident moose and a den of coyotes on a small organic farm in Alberta’s north country.

Photo by Thomas Lock, courtesy of Jenna Butler

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